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Monday, 14 December 2009

One thing and another


Kirsti, your story about the bomb threat is pretty hair-raising, when you think about it. I do agree with you about Swiss trains. They're reliable, fast, comfortable and provide good connections - not just between trains but with buses and boats as well, so it's really easy to get here there and everywhere. Through ticketing means that even for complicated journeys you only need one ticket to ride. And it's getting better all the time - the 'Bahn 2000' project which, like all major decisions in Switzerland, was approved by referendum, wasn't just a railway revolution 9 years ago but is a massive ongoing project including the construction of new tunnels through the Alps, one of which, the Gotthard base tunnel, will be the longest tunnel in the world.

The French railways are justly proud of their TGV (high-speed train) network, but it's a different story on some of the secondary lines, which have irregular timetables - often different on different days of the week and during different periods of the year - and a lot of 'train' services are actually operated by buses!

Filippo, I've done the train journey from Munich to Verona quite a number of times (and on to Venice, or Florence, or Rome, or Naples .....) The long-distance trains follow the Inn valley via Kufstein to Innsbruck, but even better is the slower route over the Karwendelbahn, through spectacular Alpine scenery, with the railway clinging to vertical mountainsides, and a precipitous final descent into Innsbruck. I agree that Italian regional trains leave quite a lot to be desired - in fact they quite remind me of Polish trains.

I wonder if you're a train fan, Leila? I've got lots of good memories of train travel in Finland, sometimes in winter through frozen white landscapes, and sometimes in summer through green forests and along the shores of blue lakes - including the journey up to Rovaniemi, which is where Taru wrote from, and on to Kemijärvi, which is the end of the line, so from there on I had to rely on buses to take me further north.

To change the subject, I seem to be reading a lot recently about the state of the Polish language. A lot of people are expressing concern about the increasing tendency for English words to be used in Polish. In recent times, large numbers of Poles went to work in the UK and the Irish Republic, and many of them are now returning to Poland and bringing with them the habit of using English terminology related to business, technology and trades such as building. English and Polish are pretty different in terms of pronunciation, word formation and ways of expressing grammatical relationships, and so it isn't always easy to stir English words into Polish just like stirring an extra ingredient into a soup, but that doesn't seem to deter people from doing it. There's also evidence that English is influencing Polish grammar. One commentator wrote that in another fifty years the grammar will break down and Polish will die out, like Latin.

Well, for one thing, of course, Latin didn't 'die out'. It developed into a number of languages which are still very much alive, and spoken by large numbers of people. And for another, grammar doesn't 'break down', though it can certainly change. A thousand years ago, English was very similar to Polish in using inflections to express such grammatical features as gender, number and case, but now most of those inflections have gone; the ending -s is the most spectacular survivor, used to express plurality, possession and 3rd person singular in the present simple. So the nature of English grammar has changed radically, but some grammars of modern English nevertheless run to over a thousand pages, so there's obviously still quite a lot to say about it - which there wouldn't be, probably, if it had 'broken down'. Is it possible, though, that Polish could change in the same way? Well, yes, it's certainly possible, but the influence of English, at the moment, isn't enough to push it into such a change.

As regards vocabulary, it's also interesting to look at the history of English. Very little of the vocabulary of the Old English spoken a thousand years ago has survived, although the surviving words include the most common ones. At least 80% of modern English words are from other sources, starting with the huge influx of Norman French vocabulary after the Norman Conquest in 1066. So English provides a good example of how almost the whole vocabulary of a language can be replaced as a result of particular historical processes. I dare say the original versions of Norman French words such as air, colour, flower, journey, part or story must have seemed just as alien to English speakers in the 11th and 12th centuries as benefit, of (day off), holidej or siti (city) do to many Polish speakers today.

Jonathan

If you say that something is a different story, you mean that it's completely different from something that's already been mentioned.

If you say that something leaves a lot to be desired, you're criticising its quality, saying it isn't very good.

To deter someone from doing something is to make someone decide not to do something.

For one thing ..... and for another (thing) ..... is way of introducing two points, or arguments, or reasons.

..... and a little quiz for big vocabulary fans. Can you find words or expressions in today's blog with these meanings:

a system where you only need one ticket for a journey involving different types of transport and/or different transport companies

very steep

stop working, collapse, become useless

say/write that you're worried about something

strange, unfamiliar

become extinct

a vote by the population of a country to make a decision on one specific issue

completely, fundamentally

frightening

a growing trend

holding on very tightly

Comments

Hi. I got an interesting book, "The Adventure of English" by Melvyn Bragg, where the English language is followed as if the language were a person. Not only seems there to have been a "huge influx of Norman French vocabulary after the Norman Conquest in 1066", as you say, but from then for a certain time, according to the book, the ruling language in England was not English but French, or Latin in church. But with English as it is now, I feel I am privileged. When learning new vocabulary I can associate words with either Swedish, my mother tongue, or French, my everyday language since I moved to France in the beginning of the seventies. - I wonder how much Polish you know and if you sometimes are influenced by Polish so much that you make errors.

Jonathan, you asked if I liked train travelling. I do very much; it has a certain atmosphere as we all know from experience. I never forget the very first train trip I did with my late grandma. We stepped into a train in Oulu and travelled to Rovaniemi and on the journey we ate the most delicious ham and sliced gherkin sandwiches.

Hello, Jonathan. I think all these changes in languages are very interesting issue. I wonder will it all lead to one world language? I hope not! Otherwise nations and people will lose their originalities. By the way now I'm learning Polish language and find it really interesting. So I hope that this laguage will survive all changes with the least losses.

Hi It is amaizing how English become a global language. I have been thinking about this globalization and glocalization of it. Actually the globalization started when the sailors went on seas and found new continents. They bring things with which are very familiar today, english tee and rice here in Finland. Once I was working at the renting vegetable plots for citizens of town. There came a group of teachers and I told that growing barley and making of it a porridge with turnips is very traditional. One of teachers said that No no it was not a barley it was a rice I know I am a person of North. I replied that where do you see the fields of rice. She looked astoniched and I said that it was barley. I mean that the thing which was exported and global before become glocal and so glocal that we don't regognice them to be an exported things. I have been thinking how it might be in a future, maybe after hundred years we will say I have always been speaking english and using computers I know I am a person of Norht. We have also a lot of words from english. As in Poland used in terms of technic especially. Spoked language ingluces more. Here some examples: feissata=face to face; googlata = search with google; infota = inform. We have very few words which are new and finnish words such as the word of hand phone or mobile phone. It is kännykkä and comes form hand and use it.

Hi Jonathan . I don't know if you remeber me or not . I was one of your commentator in your past Blogs . It 's too nice to catch up with you and your writings . It 's too nice to hear all about Europe trains . I just have one experience form train journey . I think In Iran it won't be so exiting but i 'm sure in Europe specailly in ALP it will be breath taking . Any way I promise give it a go a few years later to take a trip form Iran the north to the south , when my kids will be aneough big for not to be bored in long juornies . have fun and keep up your Blogs . Bye

Hi Jonathan, Using or speaking English has been accepted since American troops were stationed in Korea after Second World War. But it was not greatly common in ordinary people. The situation has changed a lot with some reasons. Firstly, some hugely and globally famous Korean sports stars who live in abroad have brought quite a few sports English jargon, and people, who work in show business like singers, movie stars and so on, have introduced media English jargon a lot to people, too. Secondly, many Korean students and people learn and us the language in the Internet in order to communicate with foreign friends or people all over the world. As a result, Using English jargon is prevalent among young generations in Korea, and some of Korean words have been less used or mislaid. The most interesting thing is that Japanese and Chinese’ languages are not greatly effect on Korean recently even though they are the neighbouring of my country, and our ancestors used Chinese characters thousands ago. It seems that using English is a social and cultural phenomenon everywhere. To change the subject, my country’s railway system is wonderful. It’s clean and prices are reasonable. Workers in railway companies look after passengers well and they introduce some special events for newlyweds. I used to take a night train with a bunch of friends in order to watch glorious New Year’s sunrises listening to beach’s grandeur orchestra at the same time. I must get off my soapbox before you get too confused what I'm on about. It's been a blessing month for me because I can communicate with you and other teachers again. Thanks

Hi Jonathan, Using or speaking English has been accepted since American troops were stationed in Korea after Second World War. But it was not greatly common with ordinary people. The situation has changed a lot with some reasons. Firstly,some hugely and globally famous Korean sports stars who live in abroad have brought quite a few sports English jargon, and people, who work in show business like singers, movie stars and so on, have introduced media English jargon a lot to people, too. Secondly, many Korean students and people learn it and us the language in the Internet in order to communicate with foreign friends or people all over the world. As a result, Using English in media is prevalent among young generations, and some of Korean words have been less used or mislaid. The most interesting thing is that Japanese and Chinese’ languages are not greatly effect on Korean recently even though they are the neighbouring of my country, and our ancestors used Chinese characters thousands ago. It seems that using English is a social and cultural phenomenon everywhere. To change the subject, my country’s railway system is wonderful. It’s clean and prices are reasonable. Workers in railway companies look after passengers well and they introduce some special events for newlyweds. I used to take a night train with a bunch of friends in order to watch glorious New Year’s sunrises. I must get off my soapbox before you get too confused what I'm on about. It's been a blessing month for me because I can communicate with you and other teachers again. Thanks!

Hi Jonathan! First off, thanks for commenting back. Good to hear that you know this railway route. English has certainly influenced our language as well. An Italian person usually uses some English words or expressions because he or she wants to boast about his or her knowledge of English. Most of the time, he or she does not even know the basic grammar rules. If I do not hear from you before, have a good Christmas!!!

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